Dude, You Smell Bad…

“Mom, would you want me to tell you if you had bad breath?”

Oh dear…was my first thought. Followed by a quick breath test to make sure child-who-will-go-unnamed wasn’t talking about me. I passed so let’s see what this is all about.

“It depends on how you told me.”

“I sent her an anonymous note. She figured out it was me and now she’s mad at me. I’d wanna know if my breath smelled bad.”

“Did you have a piece of gum or a mint to give her?”


Sheesh…now I’m waiting on a phone call from the parent or the school….

Fast forward two weeks. A different child-who-will-not-be-named comes home from school and in the course of telling me about his or her day says, “I told a kid he smelled bad today.”

“What??? What did you say and why did you say it??”

“I was standing in the lunch line behind some kid who smelled awful so I told him, ‘Dude, you smell bad.’”

“What did he say?”

“I took a shower.”

To which my child replied, “Did you use soap?”

For the love of Pete! Have I not parented these children better than this??

“Mom, you tell us to always tell the truth so that’s what I did.”

Touché! I then went on to explain that there are times when it is best left to say nothing at all or at the very least have some tact. It was confusing to both of them and I have to admit, I sounded contradictory as I was trying to explain the difference.

Oh Lord, help this Mamma out a little. What does always telling the truth look like?

And then I read about it the very next week.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:15 NIV)

“Yes, the Word was full of grace and truth…” (John 1:16 ERV)

“That is, the law was given to us through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 ERV)

Notice the order in which these two words come every single time they are put together. Grace and Truth. Jesus is our example of telling the truth, (for goodness sakes he IS Truth) but he does it full of Grace. He weaves the two together to create a blanket of warmth that wraps around us; that lets us know that he is for us. Yes, the truth is hard to hear sometimes but he brings with him a solution….Himself. Every. Single. Time.

So what happens when one of these is missing? Here is what he showed me…

Grace without Truth is a cover up, real smooth.

I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. I’ve told myself this is a wonderful trait to have. I mean, I’m kind and thoughtful…tending to the other person’s feelings but then this thought popped in my head…unless it actually hurts the other person worse by not telling the truth.

I have taught Bible study for many years and at one point the class I taught was right after the church ate dinner together. I hated the nights we had broccoli because inevitably I would have a big piece of broccoli stuck in my teeth.

I told my class from the very first day to please tell me if I had anything in my teeth, a booger in my nose, or if my pants were unzipped. Friends don’t let friends go around with crap in their teeth or nose or with their business hanging out. You just don’t. It’s embarrassing.

And I guess you could say bad breath either. Sigh…

By not telling me the truth, you’re essentially lying. I cannot fix the problem if I don’t realize there is one!

We see Jesus do this time and time again. He talked to the woman at the well about her five husbands. He told the adulterous woman to go and sin no more. If he was all grace and no truth then he would have never talked to them about their sin for fear of hurting their feelings. Where would that have left them?

Yes, the truth hurts our feelings sometimes but it will always set us free!

Instead he offered them a better way. He offered them a solution to their problem. He offered them grace and truth….Himself on a cross.

And then there’s…

Truth without grace is a slap in the face.

Somewhere along the way in the Christian community we have taken it upon ourselves to speak truth often times without grace. Some shout it, as a matter of fact, from a bullhorn on college campuses and street corners. Or by blowing up abortion clinics. Or protesting a certain establishment because they support a lifestyle that you don’t. Or by making sure that that young college student knows that you don’t approve of something they are doing. Or by tsk tsk’ing the single young woman who is pregnant.

In Jesus name. Of course.

But where’s the grace? Where’s the relationship building? Where’s the love? Where’s the community?

I think it’s ironic that the people who despised Jesus weren’t the sinners but the Pharisees; the upper echelon of all things spiritual. He spoke truth to them too. He called them hypocrites and broods of vipers and as having hearts that are far from the Lord. Their reaction? They wanted to kill him. How’s that for spiritual maturity?

I love that Jesus hung out with sinners. And do you know what else I love? They loved hanging out with him too! The woman at the well? She ran back to town and told everyone to come meet a man who told her everything she ever did. Which was quite a list, by the way! And the adulterous woman? He doesn’t condone her actions but nor does he condemn her.

The Pharisees spewed the law making it impossible to live, that’s truth without grace. It’s like throwing a hand-grenade with the word truth written on it into the heart of someone and then wonder why they don’t see it your way when you shout across the chasm you caused to come meet your Jesus.

Is anybody confused yet? Do we speak the truth or not? I think I’m being gracious by not saying anything only to find someone desperately needed to hear truth and not just have grace extended. Then when I do speak truth, it comes out harsh and legalistic. What’s a girl to do?

Oh the lessons we can learn from the One who is full of grace and truth.

Grace and Truth blending is a symphony unending.

Grace and truth together makes beautiful music!

It’s not just telling someone their breath smells bad. It’s offering them a piece of gum; a solution to the problem.

It’s not just telling someone, “Dude, you smell bad” and running in the opposite direction shouting peeyou. It’s offering them some soap and a shower.

It’s not being afraid of offending someone but loving that person enough to not let them hang out where they shouldn’t be hanging.

It’s not just telling someone the list of do’s and don’ts. It’s walking along beside them even when the do not’s become “but I already did’s.”

It’s a beautiful balance of Grace and Truth. Truth spoken through a sieve of Grace allows truth to fall gently and make a change. Oh. My. Soul.

So, for anyone who I’ve let run around with broccoli in their teeth, a booger in their nose or their pants unzipped, I apologize. You needed me to be your friend and I let you down. I will speak the truth to you with all the grace I can muster.

For those who have been hand-grenaded with the truth in Jesus name, I apologize. It’s uncalled for and hurtful. There is a cross that can reach any chasm caused.

Oh Lord. Help me to be like the One and Only; full of Grace and Truth. Amen.

Love you all something fierce!




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